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Keep Him Secret, Keep Him Safe  by shirebound

Gandalf’s quote is taken from The Return of the King.

Keep Him Secret, Keep Him Safe

Chapter Four: By the Fire

“I am Aragorn son of Arathorn; and if by life or death I can save you, I will.”  ‘Strider’, The Fellowship of the Ring

The tent flap was flung open, and Elrohir held it aside while Elladan entered -- Aragorn’s limp form over his shoulder.  Elladan carefully laid his young brother on one of the large rugs, and unclasped Frodo’s cloak from about his chest and shoulders.  Elrohir knelt beside him, and the two brothers removed Aragorn’s sword, belt, and boots, followed by his sodden tunic and trousers down to his linens.  They worked together so quickly and efficiently, it was obvious this was not the first ill or wounded person they had jointly tended.  Merry handed Elladan a towel, and the Elf nodded his thanks and dried Aragorn’s hair somewhat.  Only then did he and Elrohir lift him, and settle him on the waiting bed.

“I’ll take that, if you like, Elladan,” Pippin said, stepping forward and motioning to Andúril.  “If I prop it up over there, next to the bed, Strider can see it and know that it’s safe.”

Elladan hesitated a moment before handing the young hobbit the legendary weapon that he knew Aragorn never let out of his sight... and allowed very few people to touch.  But he was aware of the regard his young brother held for his small knight.  Pippin, doing his best not to drop the heavy sword, leaned it against the wall of the tent.

Taking his cue from Gandalf, Frodo stood quietly, one small hand unconsciously winding itself in the wizard’s robe.  Aragorn lay pale and shivering, and Sam was bringing warmed blankets over to the bed.  Elrohir sat in silence, his eyes closed, one hand on Aragorn’s brow and the other on his chest.  Pippin exchanged a puzzled glance with Merry, both wondering when Gandalf or one of the Elves would start doing something to help Strider, but Frodo wondered if this was the way Elves healed people.  Had Aragorn sat with him and Sam this way when the eagle brought them from the Mountain?  Was this what Lord Elrond had done for him when he was unconscious in Rivendell?

Elladan shed his own cloak, and took a moment to look around.  Neither he nor Elrohir had had time, as yet, to visit the hobbits’ tent which, to his surprise, was larger than anyone else’s – even Aragorn’s.  He had vaguely heard about the Dwarf’s comings and goings from the supply tents to this one.  If Gimli’s folk undertake the same care and dedication in rebuilding Minas Tirith as he has with outfitting this temporary dwelling, he thought with a smile, Aragorn’s city will regain its place as the wonder of the South.

His attention was drawn back to the entrance as Legolas entered with a pack on his back and dragging a heavy chest.

“I have brought some things that should remain in Aragorn’s keeping,” Legolas said, laying down the pack.  He did not feel that the diamond coronet, and the emerald brooch gifted to Aragorn by the Lady Galadriel, should be left in Aragorn’s now-empty tent.

“The healers sent what supplies they could; however, without knowing what ails the Ring-bearer...” Legolas smiled at Frodo, “...they were uncertain what to include.  I was not able to give them much information.”  He gazed at the bed in concern.  “Elrohir, do you know what is wrong with him?”

“Yes,” Elrohir said, opening his eyes and speaking for the first time.  “He is exhausted.  He has been growing increasingly weary for many days, but has not let anyone know.”

I  knew,” Frodo declared.  “He hasn’t been eating.”

“He is stubborn,” Elladan sighed, sitting in one of the chairs.  “But even the strongest can push themselves too far.  He neglected his own welfare until his body and mind had not the strength to go on.”

“Did you put him into some kind of sleep?” Sam asked curiously.  “Like he did with us?”

“No, Samwise,” Elrohir said gently.  He shook out several of the blankets and lay them over Aragorn.  “However, there may be something to what you ask; Elladan and I were discussing this on the way back.  We think that, as strange as this might sound, Aragorn may be in a healing sleep -- of his own making.”

“Without his conscious effort,” Elladan added.

“You mean he put himself into a sleep?  Without even knowing it?” Merry questioned.  He looked intrigued.  “Can a person do that?”

“I believe it must be possible,” Gandalf spoke, “at least for Aragorn.”

“Strider won’t sleep for two weeks like we did, will he?” Sam asked, horrified.  “Mr. Frodo would have to stay in this tent all that time!”

“Sam,” Frodo said, “that’s not the important thing here.”

“You’re right, sir,” Sam murmured apologetically.

“Why do you need to stay in the tent, Frodo?” Elrohir asked.

“Legolas had an idea to explain why Aragorn is here,” Frodo replied.

“It’s because Frodo’s sick,” Merry explained, “even if he isn’t.  Although he was sneezing.”

“I sneezed one time, Merry,” Frodo chuckled.

“I see,” Elrohir nodded.  “Fear not, Samwise, I do not believe your master will be confined for more than a day or two.  Aragorn’s sleep is not as deep as the one into which he led you.”  He looked down at Aragorn and shook his head, unwilling to reveal to the hobbits the part that tending to them had played in depleting him.  “Yours was... different.”

“But... he’ll be all right, won’t he?”  Frodo eyed Aragorn’s sleeping form anxiously.

“In this calm place, surrounded by friends, he will be forced to at last take the rest he needs.” Elladan smiled at Frodo.  “I suspect that his resilience – not unlike that of a hobbit – will restore him to full strength very soon.”


At sunset the rain finally stopped, and the western sky blazed with red and orange.  As the evening drew on, the twins were very touched by the concern the hobbits showed Aragorn.  Although assured that their friend’s sleep was restful and he was in no danger, Frodo and Sam were tireless in trying to think of ways to help.  They sat next to the bed and spoke or read softly to him, washed his face, and even tried to coax a bit of broth down his throat.  Merry ran errands and messages back and forth between Éomer, Imrahil, and the beech-grove, and Pippin divided his time between standing guard outside the tent next to the King’s standard, which Legolas had brought; patrolling the perimeter of the grove; or visiting the encampment to spend time with the wounded or members of the King’s Guard with whom he had grown quite friendly.

Finally, Elrohir insisted that Frodo and Sam rest, and they rolled up in bedrolls by the fire.  When Merry and Pippin returned they did the same, and were soon as deeply asleep as Sam.  Frodo lay with his eyes closed, but couldn’t seem to fall asleep.  He heard Gandalf leave, after which there was no sound but the crackling of the fire.  But after awhile, Elladan and Elrohir began talking quietly by Aragorn’s bedside.

“This is possibly the first true rest he has had since Lórien,” Elladan said.  “From what I have been able to gather, I doubt he let down his guard much as the Companions came down the Anduin, due to the threat of Orcs.  He possibly even guessed that Boromir might endanger Frodo, and stayed watchful.”

“He also needed to assume the leadership of the Company, when Gandalf fell,” Elrohir agreed.

“He, Gimli, and Legolas ran for days without rest, in pursuit of Merry and Pippin,” Elladan continued, “and we saw at Helm’s Deep the price he paid for challenging the Dark Lord in the palantír.  He held Men – and the shades of Men – to his side by force of will alone, and battled nearly beyond his strength before the gates of Minas Tirith.”

“He had not even time to grieve his fallen kinsman when Gandalf brought him into the City to heal Merry, Faramir, and Éomer’s own sister,” Elrohir recalled, “and still he would not take a few hours’ rest until many of the wounded and sick had been cared for.  And then at the Black Gate, the battle was fierce; we were victorious only because the Ring-bearers endured to see the Ring to the Fire.”

If only I had seen the Ring into the Fire, Frodo thought mournfully to himself.  But Gandalf was right... Sméagol had a part to play before the end.

Elrohir was silent for a long moment.

“When I saw how hard he fought for Frodo and Sam’s lives, and tended them so ceaselessly, I was ashamed to admit my own weariness,” he admitted.  “Never did I dream that our brother would show such abilities, which surely come to him from the mingled bloodlines of Ages past.”

“Our own abilities have never known such a test as he has endured, and passed,” Elladan said thoughtfully.  He looked to where Andúril rested.  “Our young brother is truly the blade re-forged, stronger than before, in all the ways needed for the ruler of the Age of Men.”

“Come,” Elrohir said, getting to his feet.  “Let us greet the stars, then meet with Éomer.  I doubt he will expect Merry to attend him tomorrow, and Peregrin wishes to remain at Aragorn’s side once he wakes.  Frodo will not go far, lest he be seen, and Samwise no doubt will not leave Frodo, so perhaps meals should be...”  There was a rustling at the tent flap as they departed, then all was silent.

Frodo lay stunned, his thoughts whirling.  In the few days since he and Sam had been awake, there had been time for only a small number of tales to be told.  Had Aragorn been going without rest since Lórien?  A cold horror suddenly washed over him.  What had Gandalf said a few days ago?

“You went to the very brink of death ere he recalled you, putting forth all his power...”

All his power.  And exhausted it?  Had Aragorn finally spent all his reserves and been unable to go on, because he had to help him and Sam?

When Gandalf re-entered the tent a few minutes later, he saw Frodo standing by Aragorn’s bed, tears streaking his cheeks.  He knelt quickly.

“Everything’s all right,” Frodo said hastily, wiping his face.  “I was just thinking about some things.”

“Stubborn hobbit,” Gandalf smiled gently.

“Nonsense,” Frodo murmured.  He looked around to make sure the other hobbits were still asleep, then leaned against Gandalf with a sigh.  “I’m so tired, but please don’t tell anyone.  How can I be tired after weeks of sleep?”

“I was tired, too,” Gandalf said softly.  “When I came back after Moria, the Lord of Eagles had to take me to Lórien to heal and regain my energy.”

Frodo frowned.  “You mean I’m still recovering from... nearly dying?  But what about Sam?”

“You were in much worse shape,” Gandalf said.  “You stood at the very Crack of Doom, where the air was poison.  The Ring was gone.  You were losing a great deal of blood.  And... you never expected to live, did you?”

“No,” Frodo whispered.

“Your body, emotions, and mind are still adjusting to being alive. Perhaps this short confinement here will be good for you.”

“Perhaps,” Frodo smiled.  “Pip was right; this tent is rather like a hobbit hole -- bustling with friends and food and visitors at all hours.”  He bit his lip and looked up at Gandalf.  “Do you think it would disturb Aragorn if I was next to him?  I don’t want him to feel alone.  I had Sam out there in the dark, but he doesn’t have anyone.”

“Go on,” Gandalf urged, motioning to the big bed.  “I suspect you will rest easier there, as well.  I know you’re feeling sore; sleeping on the ground would not be comfortable.”

“It isn’t,” Frodo admitted.  “But Gimli said he’d have more beds in here by tomorrow evening.  I can’t imagine where he’ll fit them in.”  He eased himself onto the bed and lay down, and Gandalf went to build up the fire.

Frodo touched Aragorn’s face and was relieved that it felt neither chilled nor fevered. Aragorn didn’t stir, but Frodo felt that he might know, somehow, that a friend was near.  Setting aside troubling thoughts for a time, he took one of the large hands in his own and finally drifted towards sleep.

** TBC **


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